U.S. Looks To Run Navy Operation In Black Sea, Risks Heightening Tensions With Russia

By Aaron Kesel

The U.S. is looking to run a Navy operation commandeering a Navy warship into the Black Sea in defiance of Russia which risks a sharp rise in tensions between Ukraine, Moscow and the U.S., CNN reported.

The Pentagon has asked the State Department to request permission from Turkey to sail ships into the Black Sea, which borders both Ukraine and Russia as access to the Sea of Azov, a key area for a string of confrontations between Moscow and Kiev.

According to CNN, the Pentagon’s insane request is unclear if the U.S. Navy plans to follow through on entering the Black Sea. It could be the striking point that spurs conflict between the two countries.

A State Department spokesman refused to comment on the specifics of the matter, but stated that “the United States carries out its activities consistent with the terms of the Montreux Convention. We will not, however, comment on the nature of our diplomatic correspondence with the Government of Turkey.”

Access to the Black Sea through the Bosporus Strait is governed by the 1936 Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits, requiring governments to secure permission from Turkey 15 days before passage.

A 2003 treaty designates the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov (off the coast of Crimea) as shared territorial waters. Russia has sought further control over the waters after the referendum in Crimea in 2014.

This news comes hours after CNN also revealed that the guided-missile destroyer U.S.S. McCampbell sailed through the Sea of Japan in defiance of Russian claims of the region. So the question remains, is this a joint military operation in progress?

A spokesman at the Navy’s 6th Fleet, which oversees operations in Europe and Africa, stated the U.S. Navy is “always prepared to respond when called.”

“We routinely conduct operations to advance security and stability throughout the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations to include the international waters and airspace of the Black Sea. We reserve the right to operate freely in accordance with international laws and norms,” a spokesman for the 6th fleet, Cdr. Kyle Raines said.

Russian officials have expected a U.S. response to the ongoing dispute between Moscow and Ukraine. The chairman of the defense committee for the Russian State Duma, Vladimir Shamanov, stated on Wednesday that he expects “dirty tricks” from the U.S. in response to the ongoing dispute around the Kerch Strait. Shamanov further threatened legal action if the Trump administration follows through with any plans.

“They have a wide spectrum of options here,” Shamanov, said according to state news service TASS. Shamanov added the U.S. may block Russian ships from accessing ports or maneuvering freely, as he claimed American ships did to Russian vessels supporting operations in Syria. “There are rules of procedure that must be upheld, and the Americans, lovers of democracy and legitimacy, will definitely know that all corresponding prosecutorial and investigative activities will be carried out,” he said.

Just yesterday, Activist Post reported that after a NATO meeting, U.S. and NATO jointly told Russia to abide by the INF nuclear weapon treaty set up during the Cold War, while America has threatened to pull out of the treaty itself giving the country 60 days to comply with demands.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was quoted stating:

“During this 60 days we will still not test or produce or deploy any systems, and we’ll see what happens during this 60-day period,” he said.

“We’ve talked to the Russians a great deal. We’re hopeful they’ll change course, but there’s been no indication to date that they have any intention of doing so.”

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was quoted by Interfax news agency stating that “Russia strictly abides by the provisions of the (INF) treaty, and the American side knows this.”

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Vladimir Putin himself has said it is “too early” to return the Ukrainian sailors and naval vessels, accusing the Ukrainian government of provoking an incident as a distraction from its own domestic economic problems.

“We need to establish the fact that this was a provocation by the Ukrainian government and we need to put all these things on paper,” he added, arguing that the incident was part of a wider pattern of Ukrainian provocation.

“The current Ukrainian leadership is not interested in resolving this at all,” Putin said. “As long as they stay in power, war will continue. Why? Because when you have provocations, such hostilities like what just happened in the Black Sea … you can always use war to justify your economic failures.”

It’s worth noting that less than 6 months ago in September before this escalation Russia held its own annual fall military exercises, Vostok-2018, in collaboration with China.

The two countries joined together for various drills, with 300,000 troops, 1,000 aircraft, 36,000 combat vehicles and as many as 80 ships that were involved, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry. While China had a lesser number of troops on the ground estimated at 3,000 soldiers along with aircraft and helicopters.

The drills took place across five different training areas, as well as the Sea of Japan, the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk, and were seen as the largest drills in decades, NPR reported.

If all that doesn’t worry you, the U.S. and Ukraine have been in “close discussion” with Washington to supply another cache of lethal weapons for Kiev’s fight in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin told reporters Nov. 18, a day after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington, Defense Newsreported.

In February earlier this year, the U.S. Navy flexed its muscles, sending the U.S.S. Carney and the U.S.S. Ross to the Black Sea to “conduct maritime security operations.”

At the time, the fleet’s commander, Vice Adm. Christopher Grady, tweeted that the move to increase U.S. forces in the area is “proactive, not reactive,” and “demonstrates our enduring commitment to regional stability.”

However, this move came after Russians interrupted a U.S. reconnaissance plane with a Su-27 jet over the Black Sea when they buzzed it coming nearly 5 ft away from the surveillance plane.

“This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-27 closing to within five feet and crossing directly through the EP-3’s flight path, causing the EP-3 to fly through the SU-27’s jet wash,” Capt. Pamela Kunze, a spokesperson for U.S. Naval Forces Europe told CNN.

On Thursday, a U.S. Air Force OC-135 observation aircraft conducted another surveillance operation which the Pentagon called an “extraordinary flight” under the Open Skies Treaty “to reaffirm U.S .commitment to Ukraine.”

In addition to U.S. personnel, Canadian, French, German, Romanian and British observers were also on the plane, according to the U.S. State Department.

“Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukrainian naval vessels in the Black Sea near the Kerch Strait is a dangerous escalation in a pattern of increasingly provocative and threatening activity,” the release added. “The United States seeks a better relationship with Russia, but this cannot happen while its unlawful and destabilizing actions continue in Ukraine and elsewhere.”

As previously stated, let me reiterate “one wrong move” by either nation and we risk igniting World War 3. This comes as Russia has allegedly surrounded Ukraine with 80,000 troops, 1,400 artillery, and missile systems, 900 tanks, 2,300 armored vehicles, 500 planes, and 300 helicopters stationed on its border in Crimea according to Ukrainian President Peter Poroshenko.

Aaron Kesel writes for Activist Post. Support us at Patreon. Follow us on Minds, Steemit, SoMee, BitChute, Facebook and Twitter. Ready for solutions? Subscribe to our premium newsletter Counter Markets.

Image credit: Sputnik



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